Mattel's Barbie is constantly pushing the boundaries when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and its latest efforts include a Barbie doll with hearing aids and a Ken doll with vitiligo. The dolls are part of Barbie's new Fashionista line which also features a doll with a prosthetic leg and male dolls that are leaner and less muscular.
Barbie said in a tweet that its new Barbie fashion dolls are its "most diverse and inclusive doll line", offering a variety of skin tones, eye and hair colours, body types, and disabilities. More than 175 looks are included in the latest line, The Guardian said.
According to CBS News and The Guardian, Mattel worked with medical experts to ensure the doll's behind-the-ear hearing devices were accurately represented. It also sought support from educational audiology expert Dr. Jen Richardson.
Mattel's global head of Barbie Dolls, Lisa McKnight, explained that it is important for children to see themselves reflected in products. The company also wanted to encourage children to play with dolls that do not resemble them so as to help them "understand that celebrate the importance of inclusion," media outlets said quoting McKnight.
Barbie dolls with vitiligo first came out in 2020 and Mattel previously said that a prototype of the vitiligo toy became the most liked post after it debuted on the brand's Instagram page in 2019, CNN reported. Meanwhile, it also launched the first hijab-wearing Barbie in 2017 inspired by Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who clinched a bronze medal during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
This was followed by the release of the Creatable World line (pictured below) in 2019 which included inaugural gender-neutral dolls. The line came with multiple wardrobe options, accessories and wigs, enabling children to create any character of any gender they wanted.
Kim Culmone, SVP of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said previously that toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, Mattel felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels.
"Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely which is why it resonates so strongly with them. We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play," she added.
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